New Age Pen Pal: A Friendship We All Need

Being Vulnerable Feature

We all yearn for it. In today’s times it’s harder to make a real connection. I’m talking about the kind of connection where you don’t feel like you have to make something up to make yourself look better. I think some of us actually avoid it because we aren’t sure how we appear anymore.

Woman TravelingI stumbled into a relationship that I never expected to become more than situational. It was one of those kinds of relationships where I was always the needy one and it made me slightly uncomfortable because of it. She’d offered me kindness before I set out on an edge of comfort zone adventure and then she held my hand by text during the entire 40 days. It’s been a little more than a year since that trip. l made it and am grateful that she encouraged me kindly. I would have gone anyway, but I went forward more confidently with her encouragement. We have that journey in common.

Despite my tentative feelings, something prompted me to pursue the relationship. For some reason I reached out and began what transpired into a pen pal type of correspondence.

It went like this. She is a very early morning person and I am a very late night person. Sometimes I would wake briefly around the time she walked and send her the weather prediction of the place we both traveled and loved separately. I once sent her a message of how I imagined us sitting together on a deck and she is holding a coffee cup and I am listening intently. I followed with a quick “I hope you don’t think that’s weird” and she said she didn’t and that she knew I was quirky from the start. I laughed and continued.

Woman EmailingThe unique part of our emailing was that we both asked genuine questions. We developed a pattern of communication by email and some text. I loved waking up to her messages because I knew they were written when her head was clear and thoughtful after her walks. During those times she shared her life with me. In my eyes, her life read like an actual book. She is interesting. She told me where she came from, literally, the way we used to do when we met new people or like when pen pals were popular.

As she unfolded her life she also shared her current life. She and her husband were battling his cancer. That’s what happens when someone you love develops a disease. You battle it together. She shared some of the trials but mostly she spoke of her life earlier and I was able to see who she was and how that would affect her situation. It also gave me clues about what questions to ask.

After emails about her life she asked me some poignant questions about mine. I shared some but felt a little vulnerable never having talked about some of the things that shaped who I am today. At one point I wrote that I felt somewhat uneven and too vulnerable and that I needed more feedback. I’m sure I meant affirmation rather than “feedback”. She earnestly wrote that at this point in her life she had little left to give and that she appreciated me holding up the relationship and enjoyed the ease of reading what I wrote and in her words me carrying the relationship. I am glad she was able to express herself honestly because this allowed me an opportunity to see the value of quality of communication in our over quantified instant text/message world.

I confess I am an “over texter”. I am an out loud thinker and writer. I am impatient, and when I meet someone I like I am eager to know about them. I think everyone has a story. I like to know what makes people who they are. This new age pen pal communication gave me a chance to reevaluate two things.

One of those things is quality of communication. The genuine questions and answers between us gave us an opportunity to reflect and share what most people don’t anymore. The other is the necessity of this type of communication as we age. We need to reach out and we need reach in. Both parts are important. It is important that we take the time to share our wisdom and our vulnerabilities by taking a risk and asking thoughtful questions and responding in kind. We need to feel connected in this disconnected world and that takes patience and persistence and it also takes a little courage. The rewards of correspondence have been worth the effort and risk.


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